|My tent without the rain fly|
It had been so long since I camped out I didn't even remember how to set up my old tent. Frankly, I have forgotten when or where I bought this tent, but it's a good one and has been used many times. With Carol's help, we figured out how to set it up, and as we worked, it all came back to me. I didn't put the rain fly on it (it's that blue plastic lying on the left), because I wanted to see the stars and let the air flow through as well. Since we were car camping, I could take whatever I wanted, so I brought along an extra blanket in case my sleeping bag wasn't enough. I didn't need it, but that teddy bear doubles as a pillow for me, and I put him in the front window to guard everything from intruders. Linda and Ward's dog Riley was a little wary of him.
The orange thing in the middle is my inflatable Therm-a-rest mattress. Back when I bought it, they came in long or short versions. This is the short one, since I was looking for the least weight to carry. It's only inflated a small amount, just enough so that when you lay down on it, it conforms to your body's contours and keeps you from feeling the ground. They don't even make these any more, but I find it to be the lightest and most comfy (that's a relative term) pad I've used over the years. I wasn't sure that it would be appropriate for a septuagenarian, but it was. If I were starting over and not needing to worry about backpacking it in, I'd buy one of their suspended ultralight cots like this one. But it makes little sense for me to spend a couple hundred dollars on something I will use so seldom.
But who knows? Now that I've stopped skydiving, maybe I'll take up car camping and explore the wonderful wilderness campgrounds in this part of the country. It was my first time in one of them last week, and I was very impressed with how well kept the campgrounds are, and I realize that there really is nothing to keep me from it. I was quite comfortable last Wednesday night, and I slept like a log, waking a couple of times during the night but once I turned over I went right back to sleep. One thing I noticed is how quiet it was. Although I am not conscious of all the sounds you hear inside a house, once I was disconnected from any electronics, it was incredibly quiet. At least until the birds began their morning songs at 4:00am. It was fun.
The routine of breaking down the camp the next morning, after breakfast but before our hike, brought back many memories of times and places where I'd performed those same rituals. Once I started skydiving, I would go to many week-long events (known as boogies) where skydivers from all over the world would gather to jump together, with lots of specialty aircraft as well as the two most popular ones, Twin Otters and Skyvans. The Skyvan has a rear exit, so that instead of climbing outside the door to exit, you just jump off the end, like you were jumping into a pile of leaves. But instead of leaves, you jump into the air and then you play around until it's time to separate from your friends and open your parachute.
I would set up my tent in the designated area for tent camping, and then I'd spend the entire day jumping with my friends. They would have organizers to get people together to make skydives, and I'd make five or six in one day. I paid for a professional packer so I didn't have to pack up my main parachute each time, or I would be limited to maybe three in one day before I'd be worn out. They have showers and places to eat right at the Drop Zone, so I'd spend a week without ever needing to leave. It was glorious, and just thinking about those days brings back such memories.
One day right at sunset, I was packing up my tent at the end of the day, feeling a little sad about the boogie being over, having made thirty or so skydives and now it was time to leave, when I heard a low rumble in the sky. Oh! It was the flyover! Far off in the distance low on the horizon, I could see them coming: five aircraft, with the largest (a DC-3) in the lead, Twin Otters and Skyvans in formation beside it. And they flew right over my head at a VERY low altitude, the Drop Zone's way of saying thank you for a wonderful boogie. With the sunset in the background, and the planes overhead, I could not have been happier. That memory flooded back when I folded up my little tent last week, reminding me of days gone by.
Today I will join my friend Judy for a bus trip to Seattle to see Wicked, a Broadway play that is making the rounds in some of the larger cities this summer. Today is the last matinee performance before they pack it all up and head elsewhere. I'm looking forward to it very much. It's not like my life has become any less full because I've left skydiving behind, but it's different now. Everything has a time and place, and I'm rather proud that I was able to make the decision to stop on my own without it having been made for me, through injury or worse. I'll always have those 4,239 skydives in my logbooks to peruse if I need to be reminded how lucky I am. And I've still got my tent for new adventures.
Now I'll get up and start my day before driving over to Judy's to enjoy her company for the day, and a marvelous play as well! I'll let you know what I thought of it, next Sunday when we meet again. Until then, I wish you every good thing and loads of your own adventures. Sometimes I need to be reminded of how really fortunate I am, and when I think of you, my dear friends who are reading this, I am overwhelmed with gratitude. Be well until next week.